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The Chevrolet Suburban HD is for Government Hands Only

Beefed-up, heavy-duty versions of the Chevrolet Suburban SUVs are the automotive equivalent of a linebacker in a crisply tailored suit. A subtly menacing appearance enhanced by chunkier 8-lug wheels masks a host of under-the-skin changes transforming these family-friendly SUVs into durable, highly capable haulers.

The Chevy Suburban itself has long been impressive for how it tugs as many as nine humans and a trailer over just about any road. Heavy-duty versions are in a class of their own, though.

There’s just something so cool (and so intimidating) about them — especially now that they’re coming back and we can’t have them.

General Motors Defense recently announced a $36.4 million contract to develop a new generation of Suburban HD, but the trucks won’t be available for consumers. The only way you’ll be able to get behind the wheel of one is if you work for the U.S. government, and even then, fewer than 2,000 are slated to be built.

Forbidden fruit indeed.

It wasn’t always that way, of course. The Suburban 2500 borrowed heavily from the automaker’s Silverado 2500, and it was positioned as a do-anything vehicle for drivers not concerned about price or fuel consumption.

As recently as 2013, consumers could walk into a Chevrolet dealer and take home a new Suburban 2500 that weighed nearly 6,500 pounds and could pull a trailer weighing as much as 9,200 pounds.

The differences between the 2013 Suburban 1500 and Suburban 2500 were extensive. Some highlights:

  • A 6.0-liter V8 rated at 352 horsepower (versus a 320-hp 5.3-liter V8 in the 1500)
  • An upgraded 6-speed automatic transmission with a 3.73:1 final drive ratio (versus 3.08:1)
  • A larger 39-gallon fuel tank (versus 31.5 gallons)
  • An additional hydraulic booster for the power-assisted brake system
  • Front torsion bars (to reduce dive and eliminate bottoming out in extreme-use situations)
  • Rear leaf springs (versus coil springs)
  • Uprated 8-lug axles (for added strength compared to the 1500’s 5-lug axles)
  • Machined alloy wheels wearing LT-grade tires (compared to standard alloy wheels with lighter-duty passenger-grade tires)

Chevy built the Suburban 2500 primarily for fleet users who needed its extra capability. Still, through 2013 the trucks could be ordered by consumers in LS, LT, and even luxurious LTZ trim levels.

And then it all stopped. For 2014, the Suburban 2500 went fleet-only. The Suburban lineup was redesigned a year later, and a 2500 version appeared for 2016 but only for shoppers placing a fleet order for commercial or government use.

These recent Suburban 2500 models are difficult to find today since most are still in active fleet duty. Look carefully the next time you pass by a major construction site, and you may see one in use. They’re also default support vehicles for convoys of high-ranking government officials. When tasked with big-deal government duty, the trucks are often fitted with armor and bullet-resistant glass. You definitely won’t find those options in a standard Suburban.

Used Suburban 2500 models from as recent as the 2013 model year are commonly available on Autotrader. While more expensive than a standard Suburban 1500, they can be a great value for drivers who need extra towing capability but don’t want to give up 3-row seating.

Here’s a Mocha Steel Metallic (imagine ordering that as a coffee drink) Suburban 2500 with the relatively modest LS trim level for just under $44,000 at a car dealer in Denver. Showing less than 35,000 miles, it certainly has a lot of life left. It also has a front bench seat — a tough thing to find in any Suburban.

A lot of these beefy ‘Burbs put on the miles, like this white one near Cincinnati. It shows nearly 174,000 miles, which explains its sub-$18,000 price tag. Its Carfax report shows commercial registration, and it’s equipped with an unusual array of features, including cloth bench seats paired with rubber flooring. Look closely, and you’ll see emergency flasher lights integrated into its grille. See Chevrolet Suburban 2500 models for sale near you

Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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